The body of Elizabeth Short is found mutilated and the LAPD are tasked with nabbing the culprit. Superstar partners Dwight Bleichert and Lee Blanchard try to piece together Short’s missing days but with the media in a frenzy surrounding the brutal murder, making headway proves difficult. If that’s not enough, wading through the political waters of their post-war LA precinct offer an unnecessary distraction. Can the two warrants cops – dubbed Fire & Ice – put the perpetrator behind bars or will the strain of the job destroy their personal lives before they close the book on The Black Dahlia?
Despite the dark nature of the subject matter, this book was a lot of fun to read. Now, I know that sounds ridiculous – some of you may even begin to question my sanity – but I’m telling you, this was a blast. Ellroy fully immerses himself in the culture of post-war America and brings the reader along with him.
The cool, slick slang of the 1940s is in full force here. Snappy dialogue whips by so quickly that you’ll find yourself devouring huge chunks of the story in each sitting and making it damn near impossible to put down. I’m a sucker for hard boiled story telling and Ellroy’s opening entry into his legendary LA Quartet is not to be missed.
The Black Dahlia is the perfect example of what great noir fiction should be – interesting protagonists that we can root for but at the same time love to hate. Bucky is admirable in his quest to uncover the truth behind Elizabeth’s murder but he’s also a bit of a scumbag. He lets his temper get the better of him more often than not and seemingly carries a misplaced sense of self-righteousness at all times. He’s a multi-layered character and a great narrator for the story.
While I enjoyed Ellroy’s novel, I will admit that I found the last twenty percent or so a little unnecessary. While the author doesn’t leave the reader with many questions, I felt like it would’ve been better if he had left the mystery more open ended. With the story itself being based on an actual unsolved murder, the need to wrap things up with a bow felt strange. That being said, Ellroy’s own mother was murdered when he was young and the person responsible has never been brought to justice. With Ellroy dedicating the novel to his mother, it’s possible that fictionalizing an ending to a legitimate unsolved murder helped the author work through some of his own issues.